This was my first week back to work, so you can imagine the guilt I was feeling about leaving the critters to fend for themselves after a month of dispensing treats and cuddles three times a day. When I got home on Tuesday, I was horrified to see Claire sitting outside the chicken coop. I herded her back into the Bunny Ranch and quickly realized Harvey was nowhere to be found. I looked down and saw they had dug an escape tunnel large enough to make any Alcatraz inmate proud. I spent the next four hours crawling around the backyard with a flashlight wailing, “Harvey, Harvey come home!” I’m sure the neighbors thought I sounded like a Lifetime network movie. I finally found him underneath one of the decks; he popped out when I started shaking grain in his food bowl. Then I spent the next half an hour trying to herd him back home; I finally just scooped him up, which was difficult one handed. I had the brilliant idea of trying to hold him wedged between my arm, neck, and chin, and promptly remembered they have really, really sharp claws. I eventually got them both tucked back into their hutch, and I was so happy they were safe I gave them double rations of apples and leafy chard. I’m sure they learned their lesson. Now poor Gene has to spend his weekend making the lower level of the ranch bunny proof. (And I told him his solution could not involve electricity in any way.)
I’m not sure why the bunnies felt compelled to escape; we’ve gotten a hard frost every night, and rain every day. Everyone but the ducks is already impatient for spring to come. I bailed out their pond over the weekend, mostly because you could smell it before you could see it. I had let it go for a few weeks because it takes forever to bail it out one-handed. I moved the pond liner since there was a lot of rain water underneath it, and discovered a group of small frogs. I was worried they would be crushed when I refilled the pond, so I carefully picked them up and put them to the side. I turned to grab the liner again, and was startled by a high pitched screaming sound from right behind me. I was happier before I knew that frogs shriek as they’re being swallowed by ducks. So much for keeping them safe.
In happier news, Gene finally grew weary of my not so subtle comments regarding how sad and empty the brooding box looked, so he got me six new chicks! About a week old, and sooooo cute. They are Golden Sex-Link; the color of the chick is linked to the sex, so male chicks are white and females are golden. The new chicks bring the grand total up to 21 chickens! Only 18 of them will live in the coop though, the fancy roosters will live in the pasture. Gene said the chicken coop has reached its capacity, so I told him he better start building another one. The woman we bought the chicks from has over 400 (400!) chickens, so she’s making us look like chicken farming rookies.
Gene and I winterized the garden today, and the chickens had a blast running around the turned dirt digging out earthworms and bugs. After struggling to uproot the Tomatonater, Gene made me promise to only grow tomatoes in pots next year. The Tomatonater resembled more of a shrub than a tomato plant, the root balls were huge. My job was to go around with a bucket and pick up all the fallen, squishy, rotten tomatoes. By the end of it, I might as well not have been wearing a glove. Yuck. And I thought the duck pond smelled bad.